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Boca del Rio Bridge Inaugurated

The gap that for years has separated San Pedro Town from North Ambergris was finally linked this past Saturday, February 25, 2006 as the Boca del Rio Bridge was inaugurated. “I would like to acknowledge the kindness of a great man who came to our aid to make this dream a reality. I am speaking of Mr. Barry Bowen,” said Mayor Elsa Paz as she addressed the gathering at the foot of the bridge. The San Pedro Town Council teamed up with one of San Pedro’s wealthiest men, Mr. Barry Bowen to open the island’s first ever bridge.

Ribbon CuttingBarry Bowen, a former PUP senator and party supporter, made it clear where he stands in San Pedro as he stated that he will do everything in his power to support Manuel Heredia and Elsa. He expressed his love for the island and how he was more than happy to assist the Town Council with such a large endeavor as the Boca del Rio Bridge. Barry Bowen personally financed this project, oversaw construction and sponsored the design and engineering free of charge to the town council.

Guest speakers at the inauguration were two of tourism’s great pioneers for the island, Mr. Ramon Nuñez and Mrs. Celi McCorkle. Both of them expressed their joy in seeing such a great project being completed, one that would greatly assist in the further development of our island.

With all the official ceremony and politics aside, Mayor Elsa Paz, Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., UDP Party Leader Dean Barrow, Barry Bowen and Celi McCorkle headed to the south side bridge foot and did the honors of officially opening the Boca del Rio Bridge by cutting the ribbon.

The Dream to Build a Bridge

Ramon NunezThe Boca del Rio split is a natural channel that separated the tranquil, less developed North Ambergris Caye from that of the bustling central San Pedro Town. The split caused the slower development of the northern part of the island up until recently with the large investment that is taking place and the development of large resorts and condominium projects.

Electricity, phone service and water only run a few miles past the split and there are no serviceable roads at the moment, something that will eventually change with the access that the new bridge creates. The triple span modern bridge, 120 feet long and 23 feet wide, was constructed on schedule, taking 30 only four months to build and costing $750,000.00. It is made of galvanized steel and its paint job will withstand all the salt air and coastal weather conditions.

The bridge has a capacity of 20 to 25 tons with a safety factor of 30% which means that it can hold up to 30 to 35 tons. But for now only golf carts, motorcycles and bicycles will be allowed to cross. Only the future will tell when larger vehicles will cross, with the exception of emergency and police vehicles when the need arises. The bridge is also able to allow passage for 95% of the water crafts that must pass under it while barges will have to go around.

Bowen is providing the financing for 5 years at a rate of 12%. It is foreseen that the bridge will pay for itself through a $10 tolls collected from golf carts per round trip; pedestrians and bicycle users will be allowed free passage. It is estimated that 400 to 500 people, most of them construction workers, cross the ferry on a daily basis.

The Controversy

BridgeThe bridge had always been the dream of both political parties. When the PUP Town Council was in office the UDP were against the project, but now that they are in power they could not avoid the necessity of the bridge that came along with the growth of the island. The old way of getting across the Boca del Rio split was a beat up ferry that was pulled across with man power; something that the tourist liked very much but was not working for the residents.

The issue of building the bridge brought controversy in the beginning for several reasons, in particular with residents on the north side. These reasons include the necessity of such a bridge, the availability and priority of Town Council funds, the access to housing subdivisions in the north, and the loss of peace and tranquility for the folks up north.

In reality, the construction of the bridge was inevitable because progress for the island has also brought overpopulation. As overpopulation settles in, housing needs become greater, and North Ambergris Caye has been targeted for subdivisions that will provide lots for needy residents of the island.

The construction of the bridge is the first step in putting together an infrastructure that will eventually lead to the settlement of North Ambergris Caye by persons in need of housing. Eventually, roads will have to be built and other infrastructure put into place to accommodate these settlers properly, but in the meantime, the bridge will start providing easier access to the area.

According to one resident of North Ambergris Caye, his main concern is that the bridge will increase the traffic of vehicles and people to his tranquil and peaceful side of paradise. He also states that the much-needed funds from the Town Council could have been used elsewhere at the moment for present priorities, which include education, street reparation in town, and infrastructure for the “shanty towns” such as San Pedrito.

His latter opinion is certainly one that many in town will agree with, but if lots are given out for proper housing in North Ambergris Caye, the bridge will give everybody access and the right to use the government roads that will eventually be built to gain access to their lots. This is a consequence of progress and overpopulation, which we are all a part of and must live with unselfishly.

Photo Caption:
1. The Boca del Rio Bridge
2. Elsa Paz and Barry Bowen do the honors of the ribbon cutting.
3. Ramon Nuñez addresses the crowd.

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